Books That Feature Characters Living with Mental Illness

Not the taboo subject it once was, mental illness offers rich territory to explore in books for kids and teens. Stories chronicling the struggles of young people and their friends, siblings, or parents who suffer from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), agoraphobia, an eating disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, hypochondria, and other illnesses make for engrossing, insightful reading and help build understanding and empathy. Check out these multilayered novels and memoirs that explore this complex psychological terrain. And you might also want to take a look at our list of Books with Characters Who Have Physical Disabilities.

In the Blue Cover
BOOK

In the Blue

age 5+

Touching story uses colors to explore a dad's depression.

By: Erin Hourigan (2022)
See full review
The Goldfish Boy Poster Image
BOOK

The Goldfish Boy

age 8+

Intriguing mystery inspires empathy for kids with OCD.

By: Lisa Thompson (2017)
See full review
Some Kind of Happiness Poster Image
BOOK

Some Kind of Happiness

age 8+

Adventurous girl uncovers family secrets in engrossing read.

By: Claire Legrand (2016)
See full review
Where the Watermelons Grow Poster Image
BOOK

Where the Watermelons Grow

age 8+

Book about mental illness in family is real yet reassuring.

By: Cindy Baldwin (2018)
See full review
All the Greys on Greene Street Poster Image
BOOK

All the Greys on Greene Street

age 9+

Girl copes with mom's depression in colorful '80s mystery.

By: Laura Tucker (2019)
See full review
Finding Perfect Poster Image
BOOK

Finding Perfect

age 9+

Hopeful story of likeable tween's struggle with OCD.

By: Elly Swartz (2016)
See full review
As Brave As You Poster Image
BOOK

As Brave As You

age 10+

Poignant summer adventure brims with family love and hope.

By: Jason Reynolds (2016)
See full review
The Madman of Piney Woods Poster Image
BOOK

The Madman of Piney Woods

age 10+

Moving 1901 adventure explores race, class, mental illness.

See full review
The Nest Poster Image
BOOK

The Nest

age 10+

Poignant sick-sibling tale blurs lines of real and imagined.

By: Kenneth Oppel (2015)
See full review
Sure Signs of Crazy Poster Image
BOOK

Sure Signs of Crazy

age 10+

Unforgettable story of girl moving beyond her tragic past.

By: Karen Harrington (2013)
See full review
Forget Me Not Poster Image
BOOK

Forget Me Not

age 11+

Compelling story of girl dealing with Tourette syndrome.

By: Ellie Terry (2017)
See full review
Calvin Poster Image
BOOK

Calvin

age 12+

Compelling tale of quirky quest of teen with schizophrenia.

By: Martine Leavitt (2015)
See full review
Invisible Girl Poster Image
BOOK

Invisible Girl

age 12+

Searing memoir of growing up in troubled family offers hope.

See full review
Under Rose-Tainted Skies Poster Image
BOOK

Under Rose-Tainted Skies

age 12+

Mental health issues meet romance in witty, touching story.

By: Louise Gornall (2017)
See full review
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers Poster Image
BOOK

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

age 12+

Riveting story of art, mental illness, brotherly devotion.

By: Deborah Heiligman (2017)
See full review
Without Tess Poster Image
BOOK

Without Tess

age 12+

Compelling tale of teen haunted by troubled sister's death.

By: Marcella Pixley (2011)
See full review
A World Without You Poster Image
BOOK

A World Without You

age 12+

Reality and delusion mix in sensitive mental illness drama.

By: Beth Revis (2016)
See full review
What I Lost Poster Image
BOOK

What I Lost

age 12+

Realistic, uplifting tale of teen in treatment for anorexia.

By: Alexandra Ballard (2017)
See full review
Highly Illogical Behavior Poster Image
BOOK

Highly Illogical Behavior

age 13+

Sweet, funny tale of teen helping boy beat fear of outside.

By: John Corey Whaley (2016)
See full review
Just Listen Poster Image
BOOK

Just Listen

age 13+

Teen girl struggles following trauma in riveting novel.

By: Sarah Dessen (2006)
See full review